Celebrating Art and Science

By Holben, Jay | American Cinematographer, May 2015 | Go to article overview

Celebrating Art and Science


Holben, Jay, American Cinematographer


The weekend before the ASC held its annual awards gala, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the 87th annual Scientific and Technical Awards. The ceremony - which this year returned to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills - honored the pioneering technicians working behind the scenes of the motion-picture industry. Actors Miles Teller (Whiplash) and Margot Robbie {The Wolf of Wall Street) served as the evenings hosts, ably delivering the evening's technical jargon with equal parts humor and panache as 59 individuals were honored over the course of the ceremony.

While presenting a Scientific and Engineering Award (Academy Plaque) to ASC associate Iain Neil and André de Winter, for the optical design and mechanical design, respectively, of the Leica Summilux-C series of lenses, Robbie ad-libbed, "Can we all notice for a second that I have all the hard things to say?" Teller quipped, "I'm just here as the eye candy." Returning to the award at hand, Robbie continued, "The Leica Summilux-C lenses deliver ultra-high optical performance for film and digital cameras. They incorporate novel telecentric multi-element aspherical optics and ... this full series of prime lenses delivers unprecedented optical and mechanical performance."

"What she said," added Teller, who then noted more seriously, "The aspherical elements in each lens create a telecentric path of light allowing more illumination across the entire field."

Accepting the award, revered optical engineer Neil spoke first. "All that telecentric stuff, eh?" he joked. He then went on to thank ASC associate Otto Nemenz for the concept and original specification of the lenses. De Winter kept things brief, noting as he admired the plaque, "There's gold in them thar hills!"

An Academy Award of Commendation (Special Plaque) was presented to ASC associate Steven Tiffen, Jeff Cohen and Michael Fedk, for the development of dye-based filters that reduce IR contamination when neutral-density filters are used with digital cameras. The Tiffen Co. identified the problem and rapidly engineered a series of absorptive filters that ameliorated infrared artifacts with lenses of all focal lengths. These widely adopted filters allow cinematographers to work as they have with film-based technology

The last time the Academy awarded this special plaque was in 2007. Accepting the award, Tiffen noted, "We proudly accept this award of commendation and honor the memory of my father, Nat Tiffen, our company's founder, who instilled in each of us the passion to listen to professional image makers [and] visual storytellers, and [to] develop products that help create the world's greatest images.

"We stand committed to continuing to support this industry that we love," Tiffen continued. "And we find it so wonderfully pleasing in this world of digital technology, this world of hightechnology, that we're being given this honor for a wonderful piece of glass."

The team at Texas Instruments received three awards over the course of the evening. The first, a Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate), was presented to Harold Milligan, Steven Krycho and Reiner Doetzlries, for the implementation engineering in the development of the Texas Instruments DLP Cinema digital projection technology. Second, a Scientific and Engineering Award (Academy Plaque) was given to Brad Walker, D. Scott Dewald, Bill Werner, Greg Pettitt and Frank Poradish, for their contributions furthering the design and refinement of the DLP Cinema projection technology. Finally, one of the evenings highest honors went to Larry Hombeck, who received an Academy Award of Merit (Oscar Statuette) for the invention of digital micromirror technology as used in DLP Cinema projection. The Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) is the core technology that has enabled Texas Instruments' DLP Cinema projection to become the standard of the motionpicture industry.

During his speech, Hornbeck recalled, "My father, with only an eighth-grade education, by his example, taught me to ask the question 'why,' and to go out and find the answer - an incredible experience for a young child who was naturally curious. …

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